What is a seizure?

In the brain cells called neurons fire like electrical signals to run the entire body. In a seizure a group of these neurons start sending these signals all at once without a purpose or direction. The end result is typically generalized shaking/tremors, paddling, vocalizing or urination/defecation. This is called a grand mal seizure the most common type. Petite mal seizures can occur as well and these are focal usually tremors located in a single area.

Typically, there are 3 phases to a seizure

1 Pre-ictal: this is where a patient senses some change that a seizure is occurring. In people this can be a visual change, smell or sensation that occurs before the seizure happens.

2 Ictal: this is the actual seizure event

3 Post-ictal: this is the recovery period after a seizure which can be lethargy, neurologic changes or behavioral changes. This typically lasts a short period although it can last up to 24 hours depending on the patient and severity of the seizure.

Are seizures painful?

In a grand mal seizure the patient is completely unconscious meaning they feel no pain or sensation. This leaves us the owner having to deal with this episodes which is often upsetting and emotional, but please know your pet wakes up and likely feels weak or disoriented but not in pain.

What causes a seizure?

Seizures can be caused by a multitude of conditions and the best way to determine the cause is labwork and diagnostic imaging. This biggest differentiating factor that helps determine the most likely cause is the age of onset of the seizures. The 3 big categories are as below:

Animals <1 year of age

Animals 1-5 years of age

Animals >5 years of age

Typically animals less than 1 or greater than 5 we think about something else going on in the rest of the body or brain causing a seizure. This can be major organ disease, ingestion of toxic substances or severe infections. In patients 1-5 years old, the most common reason for repeated seizures is epilepsy where the body is naturally wired to have seizures without a known cause.

How are seizures treated?

If a primary reason for the seizure is found, treating this illness will likely make the seizures stop. In a patient with epilepsy using anti-convulsant medications is indicated to protect and lessen the frequency and severity of these episodes. These medications can often be monitored with blood tests to make sure they are at effective blood levels and safe for the patient.

What are the warning signs seizures are more concerning?

Any patient that has a seizure with no known history of them should be seen by a veterinarian promptly. With any seizure condition seizures that last longer than 5 minutes can cause permanent brain damage.  When multiple seizures happen in 1 day this is also a concern that medications need to be adjusted or added on for better control. Lastly, an increase in frequency compared to the usual or longer time to recover after a seizure can be a reason to adjust treatment strategies.

What can I do to monitor my pet’s seizure condition?

Keeping a seizure diary is an excellent tool to monitor how often, the severity and length of duration as often these things can be hard to remember without. You can also make notes about any potential triggers or differences in a seizure event to help understand their seizure pattern.

If your pet has experienced any of these symptoms, you should consult a vet right away to determine the cause and begin appropriate treatment.  There is a lot of education and we want to help you understand your pets condition and offer treatment options. Call UVH 318-797-5522.


Dr. Rachel McNair